I find this to be an interesting development.
We’ve known for quite a while that Etihad Airways has been struggling. While I doubt the airline ever made money, they’ve really been unraveling ever since the “Etihad Airways Partner” concept fell apart (airberlin liquidated, Etihad withdrew financial support from Alitalia, Air Seychelles restructured, etc.).
So Etihad has been on a cost cutting spree, and there have also been big questions about what the future of the airline will look like.
At one point Etihad was looking to be a massive carrier, as the airline currently has 110 planes, with around 160 more planes on order. These orders include:
- 26 Airbus A321neos
- 40 Airbus A350-900s
- 22 Airbus A350-1000s
- 8 Boeing 777-8s
- 17 Boeing 777-9s
- 22 Boeing 787-9s
- 30 Boeing 787-10s
Last May I wrote about how there were rumors that Etihad would be canceling many of their planes on order as part of their restructuring. The airline has a ton of widebody planes on order, and those orders certainly don’t reflect the more “boutique” approach they’re trying to take in competing with Emirates and Qatar.
Interestingly so far they haven’t canceled any of their plane orders. I imagine it’s only a matter of time until they cancel either some A350s, 787s, or 777s, given the massive quantity of planes they have on order.
Well, now the airline has canceled their first order, and it’s not what I expected. Etihad has canceled an order for 10 Airbus A320neo aircraft, though as of now their remaining aircraft orders remain intact. This includes all of their widebody orders, as well as their 26 A321neo orders.
What’s interesting is that the A320neos were never intended to join the Etihad fleet. Rather Etihad had ordered these planes for Air Serbia, one of the airlines they’ve invested in. The A320neo was supposed to become the primary aircraft in their fleet, replacing Air Serbia’s existing aging A319s and A320s.
So that leaves Air Serbia with no new planes on order. There had been rumors of Air Serbia also restructuring given that they’re not doing great, though that never did happen, at least not in a public or obvious way.
I guess you could say that canceling all the new planes that Etihad had on order for Air Serbia is a different kind of radical restructuring.
This is bad news for Air Serbia, though also not unexpected. The airline was supposed to start taking delivery of A320neos in late 2018, though went silent about them, and now we officially know why.
I’ll be curious to see what all of this means for Etihad’s future involvement in Air Serbia. Air Serbia’s 10 A319/A320s are on the old side, and the airline now has no plans for replacing them.
This also means that for now Etihad still isn’t canceling any of their own aircraft orders, which is surprising to me, given that they have over 130 widebody aircraft on order.